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EPA plans to clean up Pilsen lot after finding high levels of lead in soil

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found high levels of lead in a weedy lot in Pilsen, the agency announced Wednesday.

It plans to clean up the site, which is in a residential area near an elementary school, the agency said on its website.

Loewenthal Metals, a lead and zinc smelter and scrap-metal dealer in the 1940s, used to operate on the site at 947 W. Cullerton.

The EPA tested the now-empty lot in November and found lead levels of 1,200 parts per million in soil near the surface and levels as high as 23,000 parts per million a foot or more underground. When the site is cleaned up, the goal is levels of lead will be 400 parts per million, the agency said. It also check soil samples at adjacent properties.

In December 2011, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency referred the site to the federal agency after it did its own testing.

But the owner of the site did not respond to the EPA, and the Department of Justice had to obtain a warrant for the EPA to test the site.

Officials hope to get permission for the cleanup from the owner, who has been hard to reach. If he doesn’t give permission for the agency to clean up the site, it will “evaluate its enforcement options, which include applying for a second warrant,” the agency said on its website.

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